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When Prisons Cut Off Visits – Indefinitely

The Marshall Project – ” It’s been nearly 25 years since Michigan adopted a controversial visitation policy. Families have been fighting it ever since. Looking Back at the stories about, and excerpts from, the history of criminal justice. In 1995, Michigan prison officials implemented a controversial new policy: Any inmate found guilty of two substance-abuse violations would lose all rights to visits, except from their lawyer or minister. The state prison population had grown significantly in the early 1990s, as had the use of drugs inside. Guards worried contraband was being smuggled into facilities and wanted to limit the number of outsiders coming in. Families were outraged. Thousands wrote letters, and hundreds testified in public hearings. In addition to the punishment for drug use, the state had banned any minors from visiting prisoners who weren’t their parents. That meant nieces, nephews, siblings, cousins and godchildren were cut off entirely. While prisons often take away visits for disciplinary reasons, this ban was uniquely severe and long-lasting. People in Michigan prisons and their loved ones have been fighting the rule ever since.

A group of incarcerated women sued the corrections department five months after the policy was announced. They contended it violated their right to “intimate association” with young family members, and that the substance-abuse rule was cruel and unusual punishment. The lead plaintiff, Michelle Bazzetta, was not going to see her nephew, who had just been born, until his 18th birthday. Others in the suit would never get to see their young children who had been adopted by friends or family members…” [Note – this posting, and all my postings on criminal justice, are in honor of my late colleague and friend, Ken Strutin].

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